Ann Shelton has created a spectacular new series of saturated colour photographs utilising her skills in the art of plant arranging. Drawing upon the radical life of Lola Montez, the legendary 19th Century performer and writer whose own calculated use of photography to promote her self-image parallels our 21st century social media culture. She was notably the first woman ever photographed smoking.
Reinventing her persona several times over, Montez, born Eliza Gilbert (1821- 1861) was a larger than life and mercurial figure who exceeded prescribed parameters of femininity and ignored limits and existing conventions controlling women’s bodies. Weaving these concerns, along with a register of visual iconography Shelton associates with Montez, into portrait-like still life photographs from the studio, Shelton recontextualises Montez as part of first-wave feminism and as a significant figure who pushed up against convention.
The exhibition is accompanied by a new text - History is a ruin, figures 1-8, by Gwynneth Porter (download pdf).